Thursday, August 31, 2017
At the beginning of May I participated in the annual Box Office Prediction game, wherein I tried to guess as accurately as possible this summer's top movies, from May through August (you can read my original post here). Well, now that the leaves are changing colors, it's getting to be hoodie weather, and the summer smells of suntan lotion and chlorine are starting to dissipate, it's time to look back at the 2017 season and see which movies reigned supreme at the box office and which movies completely tanked. Following are some of my overall thoughts on the results, along with my final tally. Enjoy!
Dir. Taylor Sheridan
Crime thrillers are a dime a dozen nowadays, and especially with the current TV renaissance we're living through, bringing us shows like True Detective, Fargo, Hannibal, and Ozark to name a few, it's very difficult to bring the same level of depth and character development to a single 2 hour film. However, Wind River, the directorial debut of Taylor Sheridan, best known for writing Sicario and Hell or High Water (my #2 of 2016), manages to deliver the same thrills and complexity that we've been spoiled with over the past few years on the small screen. Sheridan's film succeeds in that it not only acts as a nail-biting drama, but also has a lot to say about survival, what life is like on an Indian reservation, and the toll grief takes on us. In all the right ways it's haunting, beautiful, disturbing, extremely well-acted, and in my mind one of 2017's must-see movies!
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Dir. Steven Soderbergh
Much to the dismay of movie fans everywhere, in 2013 Steven Soderbergh announced his "retirement" from directing after his fantastic HBO Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra (my #6 pick of that year). However, we all kind of knew that phase would be short lived, and what do you know - the director of all three Ocean's Eleven flicks is back in the game with another heist flick. Only instead of the glitzy world of Vegas casinos we're traveling to the backwoods of West Virginia and "NASCAR country." So, after all the false promises of throwing in the directorial towel for good, I was expecting Logan Lucky to be something special enough to at least save Soderbergh the embarrassment of so soon saying: "I'm back!" Though I don't think this film is the earth-shattering comeback for its director that might be expected, it's still a reliably good time from one of my favorite filmmakers working today.
Sunday, August 6, 2017
Dir. Kathryn Bigelow
In many ways, Detroit marks the third in a trilogy of films between director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal, starting with The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. Each film examines a period of history using Bigelow's established roots as an action director to make politically charged films with a constant sense of energy, examining the power dynamics in typically scary "combat" situations where traditional rules no longer apply. She also often delves into researched details that aren't typically covered on the evening news. With Detroit, Bigelow is examining the pressure-cooker situation of the Detroit riots, a shameful and often overlooked moment in US history, and marks Bigelow's most hard-hitting (literally) and visceral film to date - made prescient by the fact that its depictions of injustice, prejudice, and police brutality seem like they've been ripped from today's headlines.
Saturday, July 29, 2017
War for the Planet of the Apes
Dir. Matt Reeves
The original Planet of the Apes from 1968 is one of the greatest science fiction films ever made, and one of the reasons its outlandish premise - filled with spaceships and talking apes - rose above the status of b-movie dreck was due to its ingenious and groundbreaking use of special make-up effects. It is, in fact, the reason the make-up category exists at the Oscars. 40+ years later in 2011, the beloved series is rebooted with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, itself spawning two sequels, and reinvents the wheel again, doing for motion capture technology what the original did for practical make-up effects. War for the Planet of the Apes is not only an emotional journey and a satisfying end to a trilogy, but also testament to how technology and CGI effects can simultaneously add summer blockbuster spectacle to a film and add rich layers of emotional resonance and humanity, helping to create actual, real performances. If this third film doesn't finally earn this series an Oscar for visual effects, something must be rigged!
Friday, July 14, 2017
Dir. Jon Watts
In the past ten years alone, we've seen three different Spider-Men sling their webs all over the silver screen. If any character is deserving of "sequel" fatigue, it's everyone's favorite web-head. However, the five previous Spider-Man films have been produced by Sony, whereas Spider-Man: Homecoming is the result of a unique and astonishing deal between Sony (who technically owns Spider-Man) and Marvel Studios. Sony "loaned" the character out to be creatively handled by the masterminds at Marvel, while Sony took marketing duties. This partnership allowed Spidey to enter the world of the Avengers, and it's this concept that elevates Homecoming from being yet another re-hashed origin story to something we've never seen from this character before. There's no Uncle Ben, no J. Jonah Jameson, no Mary Jane Watson - but despite these absences, Homecoming fully understands its characters and sets its story within a unique, John Hughes-inspired high school comedy world, making what could easily have been the most rote movie of the year into a fun blockbuster that somehow doesn't feel as if dozens of worried executives feverishly tinkered with it.
Sunday, June 25, 2017
Transformers: The Last Knight
Dir. Michael Bay
NOTE: This review features spoilers! Ye have been warned!
They say "practice makes perfect," so by now, after FIVE movies in the Transformers franchise, you'd think action junkie and explosion enthusiast Michael Bay would be able to craft some kind of coherent story. You'd think. Similar to his other four mega-blockbuster CGI extravaganzas, The Last Knight does not feel like the four credited screenwriters had any real kind of master plan with this movie - yet again it feels like an ADHD-addled 12 year old mashing around his giant, million-dollar robot toys. There are so many ideas, characters, and subplots jammed into this movie that it defies any kind of clear and logical summary. That being said, The Last Knight at least escapes the soul-crushing blandness of Universal's recent The Mummy, featuring wall-to-wall, undiluted Bayhem every step of the way, for better or worse.